Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has declared he will run for the country’s top job next year when incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to step down.
Osinbajo becomes the latest figure from the two main parties to join the race to lead Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy.
First elected as Buhari’s deputy in 2015, Osinbajo made the announcement on Monday after months of speculation on whether he planned to succeed his boss.
In a statement, the senior lawyer and former university teacher said his years of stewardship under Buhari had made him the best man for the job.
“Which is why I am today, with utmost humility, formally declaring my intention to run for the office of the President … on the platform of our great party, the All Progressives Congress,” Osinbajo said.
He promised to continue with Buhari’s policies and programmes, including huge projects of new roads and railways.
A key issue ahead of the February 2023 election is security, with Nigeria’s armed forces battling an armed campaign in the northeast, violent criminal gangs in the northwest, and separatist tensions in the southeast.
Osinbajo joins an array of aspirants from the ruling APC to vie for the party’s ticket.
APC leader and former Lagos Governor Bola Tinubu have already announced he would run. Osinbajo served under Tinubu as justice commissioner in Lagos for eight years.
Osinbajo lacks a political base of his own and would need to build a strong coalition of supporters with deep pockets to take on the political machinery of Tinubu, who helped campaign and deliver victory to Buhari during elections in 2015 and 2019.
Buhari has not said whether he will support either Osinbajo or Tinubu.
Other APC aspirants are Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi and Yahaya Bello, the governor of central Kogi state.
The governing party is expected to choose its flag bearer by June and the candidate will face whoever emerges from the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 75, who has run five times for president, last month announced he would run again on the PDP platform.
An unwritten rule of Nigerian politics is that the presidency is expected to “rotate” between the mostly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south in a bid to share power more equally.
After Buhari, a Muslim from the north completes his two terms next year, many southerners say the presidency should rotate back to their region.